The looks upon their faces… that distrustful confusion etched into their features, the worried quivering of lips, dancing on the edge of shouting out against me, but returning to stillness out of either respect or fear… I cannot stand it. I cannot bear to see them all looking at me that way… they need me to be strong, they need me to guide them… but how can I do such a thing when beneath the surface, my soul is as conflicted as their outward expressions? They need for me to have the answers, but this time… I do not…
"…and so it is with great joy that I announce the return to Equestria of my beloved sister, Princess Luna!"
The deep blue alicorn walked forth, stepping out of the shadows upon the balcony that overlooked the town square. Celestia turned to watch her sister advance, and fought desperately to control her warring emotions as the smaller pony came to stand at her side. Another wave of overpowering despair gripped Celestia's heart as Luna raised her head and looked directly into Celestia's face. Her eyes appeared almost lifeless, their teal irises seeming to dull with each shocked gasp or angry outburst from the crowd below.
No… no, this is not how it should be… they are horrified, completely unable to understand… they cannot accept her return… I need to rein in the situation, I need to make them realize that Luna is not the monster that they believe her to be!
Celestia tore her gaze from that of her sister, taking note of the mare's panicked and heartbroken expression. With a sharp intake of breath, she stepped forward to the golden railing, and resumed her speech.
"My ponies, know that Princess Luna is just as much a Princess as I, and that Nightmare Moon has once again been vanquished." She swallowed hard, but refused to blink, for fear of letting fall the tears that she was barely holding back. "I humbly ask that you show her the same amount of love and support that you have always shown for me. I know that this change, and her ascendance to joint rulership will take time to adjust to. However, I will support her completely and do everything in my power to make my sister feel welcome after her long absence, and I pray that you all will do the same."
A few ponies slowly nodded, others shouted and threw up their hooves, and still more remained silent. Only one began to cry.
The Sun Princess closed her eyes immediately and inclined her head as the single tear rolled down her cheek, hoping that she could pass off the gesture as one of sagely acknowledgement of her subjects' feelings.
Do not fall apart. Do not lose control in front of them. To let them see you shed even one teardrop is to give them a window to your vulnerability. A few minutes more, and the charade can end. They cannot see your face clearly from so far below. Stay strong.
"Understand that this is the beginning of a new age, a reintroduction of another princess long estranged, and one that wishes only to give you her love and kindness, just as I have for so many years."
Another tear escaped from behind her magenta eyes, and slowly made its way down her face before falling to the marble floor of the platform. Celestia watched in horror as the liquid splashed into the stone and formed a miniscule stain upon its surface. End it now. Finish the pleasantries and retreat, lest they become aware.
The jarring lapse in Celestia's usually immaculate and flowing speech caught several ponies off-guard, and their looks of uncertainty only deepened.
"I thank you for your time and consideration, as well as your willingness to hear what I ask of you. In three days, Luna and I will hold court together for the first time in a thousand years, and we will be happy to answer all of the questions that you must have."
Celestia squinted slightly to fight back the welling of moisture in her eyes. The sensation was becoming absolutely unbearable, and she knew that she needed to hold on until she had finished speaking. Somewhere behind her, Luna shifted, and the noise drove Celestia to speak her closing statement as quickly as she could.
"Finally… I have one last request of you. I desire for everypony to go back home, and spend the remainder of the waning day with their families." She blinked several times, and felt her own lips begin to quiver as her final sentence came out in a strained voice. "Let us never forget the importance of our loved ones, and make sure to enlighten them often as to how much we truly care."
The billowing aurora of Celestia's mane wrapped around her shoulders as she quickly turned away from the crowd and closed her eyes once again. The usual stomping of hooves and cheering that met the end of her speeches was entirely absent, and the silence seemed to drape over the crowd like a heavy, suppressing blanket of fog.
Seconds. Seconds away from being alone. You need face only one more pony before it is safe to indulge in release. A short walk to the bedchambers, and then you are free. Face her. You must.
Slowly, Celestia opened her eyes, and took in the sight of her sister before her. There Luna stood, on shaky legs, taking long, slow breaths while listening to the awkward shifting of the crowd below. She hesitantly raised her head and met her elder sister's eyes as she continued to focus only on breathing and remaining upright. Her expression was one of fear, guilt, and strangely, hope.
The sight of the trembling alicorn before her caused Celestia's internal barriers to erode, and her tears began to silently fall in earnest. Luna was almost exactly as Celestia had remembered her, and staring down at the smaller mare filled her with such nostalgia that she found herself falling apart among her memories.
She is so skinny… she looks as though she may fall over at any second, just from the effort of trying to stand… her mane is still as it was when she was born, she has not even the power to maintain the glittering starscape that contrasts my own pastel aura. And her eyes… those sad, hopeful eyes… just as they always were…
Luna opened her mouth to speak quietly, and her voice came out in a muted rasp, so unlike the refined tone that Celestia remembered.
"…T-tia? Are… you alright?"
Celestia's heart shattered in an instant as her eyes widened. She had avoided Luna during the small celebration in Ponyville, staying close to her, but keeping her attention otherwise occupied precisely for this reason. Few words had been exchanged between them, and Luna's efforts to reclaim the relationship that the sisters once had were only serving to break Celestia down further. Guilt of a magnitude that she had felt only once before overcame her, and Celestia began to quake as she stared sadly at the one she loved most.
N-no… she… this is not my little Lulu… it has been far too long, I… I cannot just pretend that nothing has happened. I cannot forget the memories of so many nights alone, the screaming at the darkness to bring her back as I stood upon the ruins of that forsaken place. Knowing that this is all my fault… knowing that I failed her when she needed me most… I cannot even look at her, not now… I am so sorry…
Celestia slowly walked to stand in front of Luna and leaned down to her level, eternally grateful that nopony else was on the balcony to see her tears. As she brushed her muzzle against the side of her sister's mane, she prepared to do something that she despised above all else: lie.
I cannot burden her with my emotions. She needs me, not the other way around, and yet again, I cannot be there for her… I hope that you can one day forgive me, Luna.
"…I will be fine. Please, Luna, go and rest. I… just need some time alone, and you need your space to recover. We will speak again soon."
As she stood up and walked past the shivering mare, a weak, shuddering voice caused her to stop in her tracks.
Celestia closed her eyes and shook her head, doing her best to keep from sobbing outright. "Don't… call me that. Not now. Please. I-I just… I can't."
Luna watched with great sadness as Celestia walked through the large stone archway, into the dark palace and away from the one who needed her most.
So weak… I have become so weak in her time away. Everypony thinks that I am strong, that I can lead and rule them, that I can fix their problems with a caring smile and a little thought, but… I cannot even face my own emotions.
Celestia continued to ascend the spiraling stairs, completely unaware of where she was wandering to. Nothing mattered in her mind anymore other than Luna, and yet, her sister was the last thing that she wanted to see.
What kind of sister am I? I feel absolutely terrible for even thinking these things… for not being able to speak to her… for doing nothing but hide in my own guilt…
As she reached the top of the staircase, grunts of effort and heavy gasping reached her ears through the wooden door that lead to the open air of the small observation tower. Celestia paused with a hoof raised under herself to listen, and upon hearing the sounds again, immediately recognized the voice.
…she should be in bed. It is almost time to raise the moon, and she desperately needs rest. I cannot allow her to exert herself…
Celestia shook her head and pushed open the door with a heavy sigh. She stepped out onto the rough stone of the upper tower, and looked briefly to the early evening sky. Several stars twinkled against the otherwise empty blackness, and Celestia stared in disbelief as she watched Luna lean into the side of the parapet for support, sweating profusely and shaking a bit.
"Luna! What are you doing? Y-you… you do not have the strength for this!"
Celestia galloped over to the panting, whimpering mare before her, and gave her sister a worried nuzzle. "Are you alright? Can you stand? What were you thinking? Controlling the moon is not something that you should worry about at the moment! You need to rest!"
Luna looked up with defiance and insult in her eyes. "I know that, Sister! I-I just… I wanted to try… I thought that… that you might have forgotten. It is already very late, a-and… the night is my responsibility. If I cannot at least do this for you, then… what good is my return…"
A look of absolute shock, followed by anger overtook Celestia's face. "W-what do you mean?"
Luna blinked back tears of her own as she sneered. "You will not even speak to me! You can barely stand to look at me! I-I know that we… I know what I did, and I know that you must hate me, bu-"
"Hate you? You know as well as I that what happened so long ago was not your fault!"
Luna's tears began to fall unhindered as she began to raise her voice. "Then why are we not talking? Why are you avoiding me? Sister, I still love you, even after… even after what happened!"
I am avoiding you because I cannot face the reality of your return! I am avoiding you because I convinced myself that I would never have you back, that I had to be strong on my own, that I had to bottle my emotions and wear a mask for everypony! I am avoiding you because… because I blame myself… for… everything…
"Celestia, you cannot just hide away! I want to be there for you!"
The white alicorn began to tear up as well, and turned her face away in shame. "N-no… I… Luna, you are the one who needs support right now, I-I… I don't want to burden you with m-"
"Stop it!" Luna let go of the stone and stomped a hoof while giving her sister a look of indignation. "I will recover from my fatigue eventually! My emotional wounds will heal in time, but I can clearly see that yours will not! Not when you insist on keeping them to yourself! I am back, Sister, and I want to help you! I want to rekindle what we once had! I miss... I miss us!"
Celestia sniffled and choked as her tears fell, and yet she still refused to meet Luna's angry gaze.
H-how can I explain… everything that has happened… all of what I am feeling… how difficult it is to see her again after accepting that she was gone…
"…I…I-I… want to reclaim it, too. But… I am going to need time. I just... you would not understand." She sniffled again as she finally turned her head. "…I love you as well, Luna. But… things have changed, chief among them… me. I… I have done and said things… thought and felt things that… I-I…"
Luna shook her head frantically and stomped yet again, breathing hard as strands of her azure mane hung down and stuck against her sweaty face. "I do not care! Celestia, you are my sister, no matter what has happened in our time apart! Look at what I have done, and yet you forgive me? You need to move on and forgive yourself! What is troubling you so much? Tia, please… just… tell me."
The dusky blackness of twilight was swept away as a wave of soft light poured over the battlements, and Luna looked up with confusion to find the source of the sudden illumination. The moon was rising steadily, and several stars began to pop into existence alongside the bright orb. Upon lowering her gaze, she found that Celestia's horn was glowing, and her eyes were closed. Luna let herself fall down to the stone floor, and decided to lay silently and merely watch as her sister fulfilled the duty that she did not have the strength to perform.
Celestia finally opened her eyes after completing the raising of the moon, and looked down upon Luna before walking over to her.
"…I am sorry, Luna, but… I cannot. I am still trying to come to terms with everything that I am feeling myself, and… I ask for your forgiveness for treating you so unfairly. I just… do not know how to deal with this situation. I can solve the problems of others with little to no thought, but when it comes to myself… I am completely in the dark."
Luna pushed her head up to nuzzle under Celestia's chin. "…then when you feel as though you are wandering in darkness, allow me to be your guiding star."
The words once again plucked at Celestia's heart, and she found herself dropping to her knees before settling into a prone position alongside her worried sister. She crossed her neck with Luna's own, and closed her eyes in content.
"I will. But… not tonight. I need time."
Luna only smiled as she closed her own eyes and leaned into the contact. "I understand. I… need time as well. But please… no more avoiding me. It… hurts. For a thousand years, thoughts of you were the only things that kept me going, and my only reason to hold on to hope. Even if… you have not changed, and still insist on shouldering the blame for everything, I want you to know that… I will be here for you, now. Always."
A final sniffle came from the Sun Princess before she responded. "…I know. Thank you."
Luna leaned into her sister's neck more, and let out a weary sigh. "Tia… I am very tired. I… do not wish to move."
Celestia shifted slightly, and for the first time that day, did not shiver upon hearing her childhood nickname. "I know. Please, just sleep. I will stay with you. I promise."
The miniscule weight of Luna's neck hanging fully upon Celestia's own did almost nothing to make the larger alicorn feel uncomfortable. Luna spoke in an even quieter voice, and gave a final nuzzle before committing herself to sleep.
"…I love you, Tia. Never forget that. Never…"
Celestia continued to stare up at the sky as she replied. "…and I love you… Lulu. Rest, now, and dream of what tomorrow may bring."
A contented breath was the last sound that Celestia heard from her sister before the exhausted mare drifted off into sleep. The cold, unfamiliar touch of the one she loved most brought her slight comfort, and she laid her head down atop her hooves with a yawn.
This is how it should be. I will confide in her, and assist her as well, but… not tonight. Tonight… we will just 'be.'
Celestia soon drifted into a dreamless sleep under her sister's embrace, and for the first time in a thousand years, they both felt completely safe, together again after an eternity apart.
Author's Note: …I really don't know how I feel about this one. It's something I've wanted to write for a long, long time, and I just don't know if I pulled it off. I was trying to hit upon the confusion and emotional damage that Celestia must be hiding after losing Luna, and the inability to cope that she must have felt upon Luna's return.
I honestly planned on stalling on this one for a long time, but Florence + the Machine's new album, Ceremonials, was recently released, and the second single fits these two so well that it drove me to take the plunge. The song, No Light, No Light, is easily one of my favorites of hers, and the lyrics really speak to what I would imagine Celestia felt on the night of the Summer Sun Festival, after the defeat of Nightmare Moon. That song is also where the title to the story comes from, and I had no plan for naming this until hearing the song, at which point it clicked instantly.
Alright, I'll stop rambling now. I wrote quite a bit of this while in a bad mood, and I'm really not sure if I like some of the phrasing and such. I won't be continuing this, but I will say that sometime in the far future, I want to give Celestia a full (NOT DEMENTED LIKE SCENTED VENOM :D) chapter story that deals with her relationships with Twilight and Luna. However, that's quite a ways off, and will hopefully be much better than this.
Princess Textlestia 2 is indeed next, and I might write/post it this weekend.
...if Skyrim doesn't completely eat my life.